Look Up, Look Down – Early Spring Delights

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Photographs taken this spring at Bellevue Botanic Garden, Everett Arboretum, Washington Park Arboretum, Camano Island, and Kirkland, Washington (yes, we had a little snow the other day, but it melted fast).

The Future, or a Future? (or, straddling past, present and future)

Another Weekly Photo Challenge featuring phone photography – the challenge is, Future Tense!

I don’t think taking pictures with mobile devices is THE future of photography, but I suppose it is A future; one among many.

And adding effects with apps? Another future.

So in honor of camera phones, apps and playfulness, here are nine pictures taken with my phone

(a Droid Samsung) and processed with a single app: Pixlr ‘omatic.

Have you noticed how many popular app effects are evocative of the past?

They tempt me, you can see that.

So here I am, in the present, using a technology of the future to create images from the past…

More Weekly Photo Challenge photos can be seen here.

Early Spring

I took a walk through Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle…Spring’s beauty is here.

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At the top of the stairs are Sword ferns (Polystichum munitum), an evergreen native fern that’s characteristic of the Pacific Northwest.

The unfurling green fiddleheads are Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). When I crouched down among them it was like being in a miniature forest. I just about ruined my boots in the muck!

The cherry blossoms after the bench photo are Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa), native to parts of China. Its delicacy reminded me that hybrids may be spectacular, but species plants have their own beauty, often more subtle than the bright, beefy plants one sees at nurseries.

The twisted little unfurling ferns are Maidenhair fern (Adantium pedatum). One of my favorites, and how happy was I to find that they’re common in the woods here?

The white three-petaled flower is a Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). It was my FOS. What’s that?  Well, birders call birds they see for the first time each year, like a swallow returning in the spring, their First of Season, hence “FOS”.

As a child in upstate New York I haunted the woods behind our house, sometimes finding wild trilliums – white and a few times, pink. I really wanted to transplant them to our back yard, but I found out they were disappearing from habitat destruction and over picking, so I let them be. They must be gone now – a computer bird’s eye view of my old house shows only a thin, poor band of woods between it and a newer development.  When I moved here last year I was thrilled to find wild trilliums (a different species but very similar)  regularly in the woods. It seems that respect for the wild comes more naturally to people here than in New York.

Along the stream, moss and Skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) grow happily. In the east Skunk cabbage is white but here, its bright yellow color lights up the early spring forest floor. The eastern variety has a different smell to me. Plants here smell more fragrant and less “skunk-y”, but it’s a heavy, strangely intoxicating, almost-perfume-but-almost-unpleasant odor. I like it.

I don’t know the names of the other cherry trees I photographed.  They’re well labeled, but once again I was caught up in the excitement and forgot to check.  The Prunus genus include almonds and peaches as well as cherries, and the Washington Arboretum lists over a hundred different Prunus varieties growing in the 230 acre park – all within Seattle city limits!

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It was still early

for cherry blossoms, and

it snowed a bit today, so I expect to

see more,

before the bloom is off

the branch

(but oh, the glorious, transient beauty of fallen cherry blossoms!)

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Link

Lunchtime on Daufuskie Island

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge is all about lunch this week. The challenge is to photograph any aspect of your lunchtime experience with a phone. One post, from Wind Against Current,  features two of my favorite bloggers having lunch on and off their kayaks in a variety of locations, and it got me thinking. Often, the quick snacks we have while in the middle of exploring new places involve the spontaneous use of whatever is at hand – sometimes resulting in a McGyver approach to lunch.

We were vacationing on the Carolina coast and decided to visit Daufuskie Island. One of the Sea Islands, it has no bridge, and that has protected it from the rampant growth of neighbors like Hilton Head Island. It’s a beautiful place where remnants of the old Gullah culture – an African culture that escaped assimilation because of the isolation of these islands – might still be seen, if you know where to look.  (Nearby,  St. Helena Island has kept Gullah culture alive at the Penn Center, a school opened in 1862 to educate freed slaves and made a National Historic Landmark in 1974.)

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That mid-July day was sunny and the beach was steaming hot.  A starfish seemed to mock our discomfort with a nonchalant wave:

We saw a message in the sand – I guess someone found that  perfect conch shell, but they didn’t want to lug it around in the heat.

A Willet eyed us and posed nicely.

We decided to take shelter behind the dunes under some scrubby cabbage palms. Scrounging through our backpacks, we found an apple, a small can of tuna & crackers, a little container of peanut butter I pocketed from the hotel breakfast bar, a bag of chips, and water. We wanted to share the apple but had no knife, so that tuna can lid made a good apple cutter. The shade sure felt good.

Refreshed, we walked back down the beach, then turned inland to walk sandy roads back to the dock. We had a boat to catch.

Near a tiny stream leading out to the beach, I found an old, neglected cemetery.

It was one of the old Gullah cemeteries, overgrown and beginning to wash away.

For Gullahs, burial near the water draws one closer to Africa, across the ocean;

graves may be lost to erosion over time,

but perhaps the loss more ours, for the history, than theirs

…perhaps the final wash into the sea cleanses and unites every being.

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The old oaks hold many secrets on Daufuskie.

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If you have a minute, take a look at some resources on this magical region of the U.S. Better yet – go there!

Daufuskie Island

its history

the graveyards

Gullah Culture, and more

and find more Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge submissions here.

More From the Conservatory

This cactus has a very blue cast. I wonder what those two furry places are in the center – the beginning of flowers?  In any case, this cactus is an attention getter, with its big size and fuzzy textures.  I’m not one for anthropomorphizing or getting cute, but I have to say, this cactus has the look of a Sesame Street character.

Long ago I had a temporary job in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden – what a gorgeous, magical place to work. I loved it, hard work and all, but weeding the beds in the desert houses is tricky – at least once I got a bottom-full of cactus spines after squatting down to weed in a narrow space.

This is a Tillandsia, a kind of “air plant” that obtains moisture and nutrients through the air, using other plants as a support. These dry looking plants have beautiful gray green color and pleasing symmetry.

This is some kind of Bromeliad. They also absorb moisture from the air, collecting it in the central rosette, where there is often enough water to harbor insects, or even animals, which depend on it. The shiny red and deep green leaves in this species are not at all subtle!  The flower is in the middle, and that’s Spanish moss in the right-hand corner.

As I took the photo on a longish exposure, I turned the lens to zoom out, creating the blur. You could do this with a tripod and get the center more perfectly in focus but I have little patience for tripods.

Next time I have to be more disciplined about noting the names…this is an I-don’t-know plant, in the cactus house.

Another Tillandsia.   The image was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I moved the camera a little when I took it, to emphasize the exuberant feeling of movement in the leaves.

Also in the Cactus House, I’m pretty sure this is an agave. These succulent plants bloom only once, and were an important food source in the drier, warmer parts of the Americas where they grow. I zoomed the lens again to blur the image, then made the digital color photo into a black and white image in Lightroom.

All photos taken recently at the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. It’s looking greener and greener outside here – no need to depend on a conservatory for botanical inspiration. Soon I’ll go out and dodge the raindrops for photos of buds, blossoms and branches.

Hats off to A Word in Your Ear

Over at A Word in Your Ear, a wide-ranging travel and photography blog on WordPress, “Skinnywench” has challenged  bloggers to do a riff on hats.

Here are a few I have seen:

In a clothing store window in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

A tourist in New York City poses with a mime.

A Whirling Dervish at a Turkish Festival in Manhattan.

A couple “happily” awaits friends (or maybe family?) at an airport in Florida in January.

Caught on the fly with my phone, a man takes his cat for a stroll in Manhattan.

The original challenge can be found at A Word in Your Ear.

Spring Pushes Through

Fragments of last year’s Clematis vine still cling to the post.

But the Hellebores are up.

The first fiddleheads, hidden inside a warm, protective covering, have broken through the ground.

Early daffodils shout at the sky,

or nod gracefully.

The strangely named Edgeworthia chrysantha pops its yellow globes on leafless twigs,

and Spring zephyrs rustle the bamboo into a tizzy.

Photographs taken on 3/5/13, at Bellevue Botanic Garden, Bellevue, Washington.

For the botany nerds or otherwise curious, Edgeworthia was named after a Brit named Edgeworth (too predictable an explanation, right?). He’s described as an amateur botanist, and he lived when England’s wide rule brought ample opportunities for any subject inclined towards plant exploration, as long as they had the means. As an administrator stationed in Punjab, I guess he did.  An internet search reveals that his diaries are in an Oxford library; four accomplished botanical drawings of his reside at the Missouri Botanical Garden in the U.S.  If I could access the diaries, I’d happily while away a few hours leafing through them.

Commonly called Chinese Paper Bush, Edgeworthia is native to China and the the Himalayas; the bark was used for paper. It grows comfortably in much of the US, opening fragrant blooms in late winter or early spring.

I first came to know it from a specimen at the Snug Harbor Botanical Garden in Staten Island, a borough of New York City. I was struck by its peculiar form – it tends to grow into a spherical shape, and with its stick-like branches with round, dotty buds-turning-to-flowers, it looked comical to me. Not a graceful plant, but its oddness draws one in. To a plant grazer like myself, that’s fine – I’m equally drawn by the odd, the graceful, the big, the small, the plain and the fanciful. Bring them all on!

IT’S IN THE DETAILS

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge – In the Details – is about the difference between capturing a whole scene – say a big view landscape – and its details.  Moss is everywhere here in the Pacific Northwest, making for fantastic Dr. Seuss trees, enchanting mystical rain forest scenes, and, when you look closely, amazing textures and colors.

These trees are on the side of a road, somewhere within 25 miles or so of Seattle – I don’t remember exactly where because it’s not uncommon to see trees completely covered with moss. Our moist, cool weather creates ideal conditions for it. People think of Seattle being on the West coast, but actually there’s a mountain range between us and the coast, and that, plus another one to our east, traps lots of moist air. And BTW, it does NOT rain all the time here – it’s cloudy and it drizzles intermittently. Real Seattlites go without umbrellas.

The strange mossy tree stump graces the Quinault Rain Forest, whose location down-slope from the Olympic Mountains and close to the coast means it receives about 140 inches of rain a year.

This is a Juniper haircap moss, Polytrichum juniperum, on Echo Mountain, a 900 ‘  rocky outcrop near suburban Seattle that harbors a bog and some rare wildflowers. These spore capsules are on female plants – the male plants are separate. This common moss grows on every continent, and has been used as a diuretic (that’s what Wiki says).

Take a step back…

I think this is Juniper haircap again, in the Quinault Rain Forest, a place that’s supposed to be too wet for it. Maybe I’m wrong. Mosses are complicated – the Seattle area has easily a hundred species or more, and you’d need a microscope to identify some of them.

Moss intermingles with lichens on every inch of these trees in Wallace Falls State Park, in the Central Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

Back on Echo Mountain, moss takes on brilliant colors and supports an unusual spring wildflower, Sea Blush (Plectritis congesta).

At Bellevue Botanic Garden, across the lake from Seattle, ivy finds a comfortable place to anchor on a mossy tree trunk.

At a park nearby, looking up – instead of ivy, licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) has found a foothold in a lush bed of moss.

Speaking of lush beds of moss- this roof supports quite a load, and I bet there’s some inside, too! (On Whidbey Island).

More images that get Lost in the Details can be found here.